Chirag Kotak, Senior Director, Business Development at Vonage discusses the various ways of understanding customers
“We are all inundated with emails and promotions. But those who can use AI effectively to understand the customer and then deliver something personalized to them, that’s where AI really works well,” said Chirag Kotak, Senior Director, Business Development at Vonage.
Kotak talks about the importance of understanding customers across touchpoints, AI, and how conversations drive new customer acquisition by giving the right experience on the platforms they want to interact with on.
Excerpts from the interview
Many companies are struggling to deliver the same level of experience across channels. What advice would you give?
It is easier said than done, especially with today’s customers and the different touchpoints. They think offline, online, but nothing of messaging or video. It’s hard to deliver that. When done well, they bring the organization together, breaking silos. With retail, online, or social, breaking the silos and having customer-centricity will put you on a path to overcome this challenge.
How can AI increase empathy when it comes to conversations with customers?
AI is quite a broad topic, and in terms of its applicability, it’s wide. It can be applied to understand the customer and look at all the information, the signals, and the touchpoints you have with these customers to understand them better.
We are all inundated with emails and promotions. But those who can use AI effectively to understand the customer and then deliver something personalized to them, that’s where AI works well. Similarly, in conversations, leveraging automation can help solve a lot of problems, but you’ve got to approach it with a word of caution, as it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.
One should also understand that not everyone loves to talk to an AI. So when do we interject with human intervention? No one does it right, but it’s all about learning with the implementations, evolving, and working towards an optimal solution.
How do you see conversational commerce contributing to customer loyalty and better results?
Conversations happened offline previously, but today in the digital world and thanks to the pandemic, a lot of this is happening online. So that’s where conversation commerce fits in, bringing the experience closer to the consumer, where they can interact with the brand.
And that’s where we talk to a brand to get some advice and recommendations. And once you deliver that through conversational commerce, customers feel that the brand hears them. There are brand advocates available to speak to, which brings customers back. Conversations drive new customer acquisition by giving the right experience on the platforms they want to interact on.
And then, once you deliver the experience, customers come back easily. For example, if I’ve spoken to someone from a brand on WhatsApp, I know I can just pick up the phone and chat quickly, and that’s much easier than browsing a website. It’s bridging the gap between the offline world and the online world and increasing customer loyalty.
Is there a tipping point where the customers become buyers when they engage in conversations?
Yes, there are tipping points, but it also opens the opportunity for brands to convert them better. If they’re there for service or support, give them that and don’t sell. No one wants to be oversold. So address those issues. Having the ability to gain, without selling, giving the right advice and then just a nudge to say, “Hey, I can help you make a purchase here”.
And customers proceed to do it. It’s an “aha” moment, something that brands didn’t expect.
What advice would you give to brands in the Middle East when offering personalisation at scale?
It’s all about understanding your customer. And then using that information to better equip the experience, have the right balance of automation – AI with human intervention. Use the tools and technologies that are available today, like apps, and bring the balance of data, experience and platforms. That’s the way to do it. It’s never perfect. It’s all about starting small, learning, evolving and moving towards a near-perfect.
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